More than 6 million people filed for unemployment assistance this week, bringing the total for the past two weeks to nearly 10 million. And that number will rise sharply as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy.
As social distancing and shelter-in-place practices somehow become familiar, so do store closings, workforce layoffs, and the shuttering of businesses that are the very souls of our communities. We all take ownership of these establishments we loyally patronize. My bakery. My hardware store. My pizza place. But the question is, how many of those small businesses that we depend on and love will survive?
A few alarming statics:
- Nearly 1 in 5 American households is experiencing a layoff or a cut in work hours because of the pandemic, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
- Fifty-one percent of 1,500 small businesses surveyed will be able to continue to operate for only zero to three more months. And 96% said they have already been affected by COVID-19, according to Goldman Sachs research.
- According to U.S. government research, natural disasters cause 40% of small businesses to fail. And 1 in 4 small businesses will close within a year of a natural disaster, according to Business Insider.
#KeepSmallStrong is doing something to help.
How did this initiative to save a small business start?
The pandemic’s impact is everywhere, but we all feel a particular devastating immediacy as we watch our local small businesses lay off workers or shut down completely.
The urge to help was initially ignited by agnoStack CEO Adam Grohs, who saw one of his favorite Miami bakeries, L’Artisane Creative Bakery by Carolina Molea, post how overnight it had gone from booming to struggling. The owner’s impassioned plea to her customers and community for support struck a chord, and Grohs reached out to the owner to lend a hand. After 20 years working in e-commerce at global agencies, he offered to help them set up the ability to sell their goods online, and they launched online purchasing and delivery within days.
Grohs began calling old friends, former colleagues, and even some typically fierce industry competitors he knew would want to make a difference. By the next day, he had gathered 10 (and a day later it would more than double) leaders at companies across the e-commerce, agency, and consulting landscapes who were ready to lend their expertise to help save our local communities and small businesses.
What is the goal of #KeepSmallStrong?
The goal of #KeepSmallStrong is to change the downward trajectory of as many small businesses as possible. The initiative leaders are offering these businesses the expertise, experience, and technical solutions they typically provide their clients for free. Their first order of business is to help small businesses relying on foot traffic to create online storefronts and set up local delivery, ship-from-store, logistics, and customer service. This group can help those tethered to local neighborhoods increase their exposure regionally and nationally.
Who is involved, and why?
The collective includes former Anomaly CCO Eric Segal and TAOS Digital managing partner Aditya Pandurangan, who are volunteering their time. And it includes other designers, developers, CCOs, CEOs, and business owners hailing from companies such as PixelMEDIA, PFS Corp., LiveArea, Accenture, Capgemini, goood network, Envoy, Astound Commerce, Elastic Path, and Indiegogo, among others.
How will this help small businesses, and who will benefit?
Any small business owner can apply for help. Those without any e-commerce capabilities — or with insufficient setups at present — will benefit most. Many will receive immediate assistance in forms of rapidly designed and launched digital storefronts and help setting up local delivery and national fulfillment.
“We’ve just launched our small business marketplace, to spread the word across local communities and throughout the country of the numerous, amazing companies who are still open and need our help,” Grohs says. He says the #KeepSmallStrong team aims to raise awareness about how vital it is for communities to support their local businesses.
The initiative wants YOU.
This is a collective effort — anyone can join and can contribute in a number of ways. At a minimum, those interested in helping should tell friends to shop small and should find a small business to patronize right away. And everyone should share the campaign so that everyone understands the sheer scale of small business across the country and that Americans can’t let them fail. The initiative also hopes people will help local businesses in need by putting their names forward.
There is also a need for developers, digital marketers, and individual experts to help these businesses pivot in uncertain times. Finally, companies can get involved by donating resources, software, and of course, actual working dollars and time.
Grohs says he is participating in the initiative not just to help the small businesses close to his heart, but the thousands of businesses nationwide that mean just as much to members of their communities.
“We need people to spread the word and get involved,” he says.
Help spread the word.
“Those of us with the resources and ability to help should. It’s our duty to protect and support those searching for answers,” says PixelMEDIA co-founder and CTO Thomas Obrey. “Whether that’s a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend, a bit of inspiration, or a shared tear because we’re all in this together. Our goal is to help, guide, and inspire. If not us, then who? Lean in, ask questions, and share your story. We are listening.”
Grohs knew exactly what to do next to help spread the word. He called up his former colleague Brian Schulman, the founder and CEO of Voice Your Vibe, who also hosts the live Linked show “What’s Good Wednesday.”
Schulman immediately offered to use the 100th episode of his show to help launch the initiative. He enlisted the help of producer Marc Gawith of Switcher Inc., and Gawith was similarly eager to assist.
Schulman put it in perspective: “Imagine what this world would be like if we came out of this craziness two months from now and the only thing we were left with was big-box retailers and chain restaurants.” When it comes the character of our communities and our economy, nothing compares to the impact of small businesses.
“Small businesses and commerce are the backbones of our communities and our country. This is one of many reasons the fight against coronavirus is so disruptive and the consequences so far-reaching,” LiveArea Executive Vice President and General Manager Jim Butler says. “These businesses are in survival mode — and some may not make it without assistance. This is why LiveArea is lending our talent and support as a founding member of #KeepSmallStrong, a collective of commerce leaders who have banded together to help save small business in America.”
Yes, there is a website where you can learn more.
Interested folks can visit keepsmallstrong.org and find them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and use the #KeepSmallStrong hashtag to follow the movement. Please share far and wide.